The Story of Pop: 1998 (Chapter 17)

This week’s instalment of The Story of Pop: 1998 – where we revisit all the biggest hits and stars behind them 25 years ago – is rather fittingly being written whilst the present writer is staying in Cardiff. Why, I hear you ask? Well, better read on…

  • Artist: Catatonia
  • Song: Road Rage
  • Released: 20/04/1998
  • Writers / Producers: Mark Roberts / Catatonia
  • Highest UK Chart Position: #5
  • Weeks on Chart: 10

Having broken through with their first big top 10 hit, The X Files referencing stormer “Mulder and Scully” in January 1998 (it peaked at #3), Catatonia had quickly emerged as the most exciting band to come out of Wales, after cutting their teeth for a couple of years via a string of critically acclaimed if modestly performing top 40 hits.

With the outspoken, gravelly voiced Cerys Matthews as their lead singer, singing proudly in her full Valleys tilt, their second album International Velvet was quickly rising up the long player listings, as they readied the release of their third single from that album.

“Road Rage” was a building, grinding bit of alternative rock, with Cerys making particular emphasis on rolling the “R”s in the song’s title that made it immediately stand out on the radio and TV channels.

However, it was also met with a fair amount of controversy, as it’s subject was inspired by Lee Harvey, who had been murdered by his girlfriend Tracie Andrews in December 1996 (something which Cerys apologised for later on).

But on its April 1998 release, it was evident that the press it attracted – good or otherwise – was ultimately overridden by the music being that damn good. “Road Rage” peaked at #5, going onto be certified silver for sales of over 200,000 copies in the UK.

And with the release of further singles from the International Velvet album, including “Strange Glue” (#11 in July) and “Game On” (#33 in October), the album would eventually go onto be certified triple platinum for sales of over 900,000 copies, being nominated for both the Mercury Prize and the Best British Album award at the BRIT Awards.

With the release of their third album, 1999’s Equally Cursed And Blessed, success continued – as we have indeed touched on in The Story of Pop: 1999, when we wrote about that album’s first single, “Dead From The Waist Down”, before they eventually parted ways following 2001’s final album, Paper Scissors Stone.

But truly, Catatonia’s real high point of imperial phase glory was, and always will be, 1998. Opening a copy of Melody Maker or NME, or heading out to a big festival like Glastonbury or T In The Park, and they were there. And it was all thanks to anthems like “Road Rage” that they put themselves – and ultimately, Wales – on the map as a behemoth of 90s rock’n’roll.

Don’t forget to follow our brand new playlist on Spotify – updated weekly so you never miss a song from the story of pop in 1998. And you can leave your memories of the songs below in the comments, Tweet us or message us on Instagram, using the hashtag #StoryofPop1998.

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